Still Life with Two Walking Sticks
28" x 45"
Gouache on museum board
When my high school art teacher died in 1981 I felt somewhat lost. He had always been a person who understood my paintings and when he died I felt panicky. I was not sure how to evaluate my own work and know when it was successful or for that matter when it was finished. That was 31 years ago. May I share some thoughts about how to determine when you should stop working on a piece of artwork and how to critique your own work?
The American painter Albert Pinkham Ryder had the extremely bad habit of overworking his paintings. He often worked on the same painting for years on and off and painted over things that should have been left alone. He could not stop trying to improve his work. His motive was good but the practice was bad. (He also was a horrible technician and used paints for his paintings that were not at all permanent. As a result his work is deteriorating at a faster pace than it should be.) Knowing when to stop working on a piece of artwork is crucial.
As you come to the end of a painting or drawing, it helps to give some time away from it to see if it is really finished. Try not looking at it for a couple of weeks and often when you do this you'll see your work with fresh eyes. Don't ever analyze work immediately after finishing it. Often an artist is tired and needs time to recuperate. I once burned a half-finished painting. I look at the photo now I had taken of it before I destroyed it and it was actually coming along nicely. Being exhausted I was too critical and my reasoning was off. I made a big mistake. I should have "mothballed" (putting it away—out of sight) it for a while and then looked at it when I was rested up.
Another tip is that you can look at artwork in a fresh way by turning it upside-down. You see the artwork more abstractly and you can also see color, contrast, and composition easier. You can also look at your work in a mirror. I have a mirror directly behind my easel and I often turn around and look at the painting in the mirror. This is a great way to see if the drawing is incorrect in any way.
I make a list of things I need to do to finish a painting and go down the list and check off those necessary adjustments. It is a list made by looking at the painting from about ten feet away and looking carefully and thoughtfully.
If you know anyone who has a good eye ask them to look at your work. My wife is not an artist but she can tell me when something does not read clearly. She might say,"What is that shape over there?" or, "That spot over there doesn't seem right." Her hunches have been invaluable.
As you continue on as an artist it gets easier to make these decisions. I have come to the point where I can readily see what needs to be fixed and it is more of a gut feeling than a rational decision many times. I sense when something is not correct. You will grow into that ability too.
In conclusion, listen to your intuition. If you are not happy with any piece of artwork (no matter how many others like it) then you should do what is necessary to make it right. No amount of persuasion has ever stopped me when I sensed something needed to be fixed. To learn more about Daniel K. Tennant, visit
Still Life with Blueberry Muffin
37" x 26-1/2"
Gouache on museum board
Painted by Daniel K. Tennant
In more than four decades of making artwork, I have noticed that there are two types of artistic people. There are those who love all kinds of media—each time I meet them I notice they are using a different medium—and there are those artists who stick to one medium. What should it be? For people like Pablo Picasso—who was recognized as a prodigy when he was a teen—branching off into many different venues of expression was natural for him. He had so much energy and so many ideas that he could work in oils, engraving, sculpture, drawing and lithography—just to name a few.
For those of us who are not as gifted naturally as he was, finding the right medium has been a slow progression. We took art classes in high school and by doing many different projects we narrowed down our interest to perhaps two or three mediums and as we matured eventually discovered that we had a real affinity for water media or oils or 3-D work.
When one uses a particular medium with authority it makes artistic expression become more second nature. There is not as much technical struggling and the act of creating becomes more natural and easier. Personally, I've used opaque watercolors (gouache) almost solely for 33 years and although they are my favorite medium they can still at times give me struggles. One can always improve no matter how many years one has used a particular medium. The medium should also be an extension of the way the artist thinks. I happen to paint quickly and like to finish areas in one sitting. I don't like to wait for things to dry so gouache is a wonderful medium for that reason alone.
There are no rules set in stone but my observations about success is that most really successful artists have found their own medium and stayed with it. Some have mastered two mediums, but it takes a lifetime for most of us to master even one. The old saying, "A jack of all trades and a master of none," has some relevance here. Trying to master too many media can actually be detrimental. Try finding your medium and stay with it and become a true master of it. To learn more about Daniel K. Tennant, visit
"A good painting is the result of good planning,”
—Daniel K. Tennant
Like many artists, Daniel K. Tennant believes when you approach a new piece, “it is good thinking to sketch the idea on a piece of paper the same size as the surface you'll be painting on.” When you do this you leave nothing to chance, which can ensure better results when you have finished. Daniel references the great American illustrator, Norman Rockwell , whom he says mapped out every square-inch of his compositions before he applied any paint. “I agree with him that a painting is difficult enough without having to compound the process by making design decisions while painting.”
Dan is also quick to point out that you should not limit yourself by this process. “It’s not a straight jacket! Some of the greatest paintings ever created have been changed during the painting process—as x-rays have shown—but usually the adjustments were simply a bit of fine-tuning here and there.” Finally, Dan suggests drawing or sketching the entire painting might make the process more enjoyable.
While there are no specific rules for how you must approach your work, remember to try and finish each piece. You can always go back, make a few tweaks here and there, or start over from the beginning. Remember to have fun, be creative, and never stop believing in your talent!
Below is a sampling of Daniel's recent work:
"Early Morning Mist"
Gouache on museum board
"A Syracuse University Still Life"
Gouache on museum board
"Still Life With Large Lobster"*
Gouache on museum board
*This painting was voted the "Most Popular" painting at the 2010 National Exhibition of American Watercolors in Old Forge New York.
"The Artist's Magazine" has called this show one of the top ten juried watercolor shows in the country. In the four times Daniel has entered the show, his paintings have won the most popular vote every time!
New reality show invites you into the colorful world
of surf artist Drew Brophy
At first, Drew Brophy didn?t want his own television show, but after a little nudging from Maria Brophy, his promoter, manager, and wife of 11 years, he agreed to share his unique brand of eclectic surf art with, potentially, millions of viewers.
What sets The Paint Shop
apart from the onslaught of reality television currently dominating the airwaves, however, is Drew?s educational approach, colorful designs, and surfer attitude. That and there?s no drama?the main ingredient in most other reality shows.
?We keep the negative drama out of it,? says Maria. ?The downside is that our ratings will never be as high as Jersey Shore
, but we want to show people that they can design a lifestyle where they are doing what they love for a living. We want people to see that it?s possible!?
And this wave-riding couple is doing just that. Along with their 9-year-old son, Dylan, the Brophys live and work in the beautiful seaside town of San Clemente, California, where the majority of the show is shot. From his studio, Drew walks viewers through some of his more interesting commissioned projects?from initial design to finished work of art. Whether he?s painting screamin? skulls on a Harley-Davidson motorcycle or installing abstract art in a hotel, he?s having a blast?and rockin? out while he?s doing it. But the best part of the show is seeing the customers? enthusiastic reactions when they first see how Drew has transformed their humdrum surfboard or bike helmet into a colorful work of art that?s sure to get noticed. After all, the Brophys are in the business of making people happy.
The fourth episode of The Paint Shop
will begin airing in a couple of weeks, and Maria says it?s the ?most colorful one yet!? In this episode, Drew and tattoo artist Mark Longnecker take a street-art tour of Los Angeles, paint the exteriors of some vans alongside a few famous graffiti artists, and complete the show with a tattoo demonstration.
Maria said the show has opened a lot of doors for Drew?s business. They currently are in discussions with some major television networks and hope to see the show broadcast nationally in the near future. For now, The Paint Shop
can be viewed locally in Southern California or online. Visit http://www.thepaintshop.tv
for air times. Drew, Maria,
and Dylan Brophy in
front of their
?Dream Machine.? Photo (c) Michael R. Foley.
How to make the move from amateur hobbyist to professional artist
There comes a time in the life of every artist when the question is asked: “What's next?” After a few years of painting I had to ask myself, "Where do I want to go with my art?” Do I continue to paint for the shear pleasure of creating something beautiful, or do I want to take it to the next level? Being a stay-at-home mom with four children, my world was pretty limited, but I knew I wanted my art to be more than a hobby. I decided to get my work “out there” by taking some basic steps. This was my “baby steps” plan.
Join Art Associations
Joining an art association is always the first step in getting more exposure. It provides you with opportunities to show your work and get feedback. There is nothing more valuable to your growth as an artist than listening to what people have to say about your work. Their compliments and criticisms (you have to take the good with the bad) can help you take an objective look at what is, and is not, working in your art.
Try to surround yourself with artists who are more accomplished than you are. Be a sponge—listen to them and learn from their experience. Let their skill and expertise motivate you to push yourself to the next level.
Broaden your horizons by entering some art competitions. Either go online, or turn to the back pages of you favorite art magazine and you will find a multitude of contests. Not only are these competitions a great experience, but they will add to your resume as well. Although there will be rejection, there will eventually be success! The key is to not give up. Don’t let the small defeats discourage you. Use them as motivation to keep working and improving. As the saying goes, "If you throw enough pasta at the wall, eventually something's going to stick.”
Sell Your Art
Try your hand at selling your work. Whether it’s a local art fair or the holiday bazaar at your child's school, you will find a place to sell your work. Nothing fuels the creative fire more than someone willing to pay money for you art. Always remember to start out small. Don't expect someone to shell out $1,000 at a community event. To make your art affordable, try working smaller.
Eat & Breathe Art
Stay motivated and inspired. Visit museums and study the work and techniques of artists you admire. Improve your skills by reading books, taking classes or workshops, and most importantly, by practicing, and practicing, and practicing some more! Always keep a pen and camera nearby. You never know when inspiration will hit. I always seem to get great ideas at two or three o’clock in the morning, or I see a great scene for a painting while I’m waiting for my kids at soccer practice.
Enjoy the Process
Most importantly, don’t take yourself too seriously! Learn to enjoy the process. It’s not always about the results. It’s only canvas, paint, or paper. Today's failures may be tomorrow’s success.
Watercolor sketch of Collioure, France. By Brenda Swenson.
In early June I traveled to Southern France to teach a sketching with watercolor workshop. The nine people in my group were all from the United States. Our home away from home for two weeks was the beautifully restored residence named Montfaucon, in the small town of Limoux. Historic records to this building go back to the mid 1300s. In the evening we either dined at Montfaucon with lavish meals prepared by local chefs or dined at one of the many outstanding restaurants in the area.
Each day we traveled to nearby villages, fortified cities, open markets, castles, and wineries. In the morning I would give a brief lesson either in the studio at Montfaucon or when we arrived on location. Some of the lessons I covered were light and shadows, edge quality, perspective, design, format, and vignettes. The locations we sketched at were the seaside town of Collioure, the medieval village of Minerve, the fortified city of Carcassone, Camon (the rose village), Rennes-le-Chateau, Gorge de Galamus, and more. There are just too many wonderful places to see and explore in just two weeks! We had so much fun. I plan to return!
If you are interested in attending one of Brenda’s workshops, follow this link for her 2010 and 2011 schedule. Locations vary significantly. http://www.swensonsart.net/events.html
The group of workshop participants, in France. Brenda Swenson on the right.
To see more of Brenda’s watercolor paintings, go to http://www.swensonsart.net/gallery.html
Walter Foster books written by Brenda Swenson include Keeping a Watercolor Sketchbook
, Steps to Success in Watercolor
, and Discover Watercolor Sketching
The Absinthe Drinkers or Les Absintheurs
, is a film that has evolved over the past two years into more than a passing creative fancy. It has become a collaboration of actors, producers and many people who believe in the power of art and of the creative process.
Absinthe was the drink of choice for Parisians in the 1890s. Phylloxera had wiped out all the vineyards, and the cheapest alcohol was this medicinal wormwood concoction. It inspired madness and genius for the great talents of Montmartre. And our protagonist, Artemisia, finds herself painting in the midst of it, surrounded by the likes of Toulouse Lautrec, Degas, and Erik Satie.
The concept of The Absinthe Drinkers
began several years ago, over a wonderful dinner in Tuscany with my husband, John Jopson, and a good bottle of local wine. Initially, the conversation was about an 18th century painting—much like my “Eduardo Gauteir” (below)—at auction. What stories that painting could tell—who was the artist and who was the subject? What if the painting came to life?
In creating paintings for the film, I am literally stepping inside the mind and world of Artemisia and Paris in the 1890s. What were her materials, her inspirations, passions, and challenges? It’s wonderful to imagine the struggles of a young woman painter of that era. Many struggles not unlike my own!
The cast of actors and others on board are committed—we are just waiting for final funding and financing for filming to begin. We are now hoping for production to start in the spring of 2011.
About two years ago we received financing to create a short film for promotion of the film. We filmed on location in the Tuscan countryside and in my Tuscan studio. Gaetano Guarino, our dear friend and brilliant Italian actor, was cast as the role of Eduardo Gautier—the unscrupulous art dealer who, in the end, betrays Artemisia.
My Tuscan studio was turned into a movie set and rearranged and dressed to look like an art dealer's office. As we filmed I made several sketches and took many photos. It is from these references I created "Eduardo Gautier".
"Eduardo Gautier" was painted on linen with oil paints. It was recently exhibited at the Salon International Exhibit and won the top prize in the Figurative Category and placed in the jurors’ top 30 at the Salon International Exhibition in San Antonio, Texas.
To see more of Caroline’s work, go to carolinezimmermann.com
Caroline has several of her latest paintings on display at the Festival of Arts in Laguna Beach, California, through August 31, 2010.
Caroline has contributed to the following Walter Foster books: Oil and Acrylic: Still Lifes, Oil Painting Step by Step, and Beginner’s Guide: Get Started Painting.
Ever since I was a child, I wanted to be an artist. I always drew well, and my father, a third generation artist, encouraged my aspirations. I continued to pursue art throughout high school, but after graduating, I realized that neither my parents nor I could afford a formal art education. So I did what I had to do; I got a job and went to work. Art became a distant memory as I moved on with my life, married, and had four children.
I used my artistic talents around my home—decorating and redecorating—but knew there was always something missing from my life. After a close friend showed me a painting he had done, I decided to once again try my hand at fine art. I had never painted before, so I grabbed the cheapest and most practical thing in the art store, which was acrylic paints (oil paint didn’t make sense with four small kids in the house, and my lack of free time). I did my first painting, and saw that this might be something that would let me express all those creative ideas that had been dormant for the last 10 years.
I continued to paint as often as I could, and tried to increase my knowledge by reading anything and everything I could get my hands on. I used experimentation, and trial and error to hone my talents. As my confidence increased, I joined a local art group, and had some success in their shows. Next I began entering competitions that I found in art publications. There too, my success grew. Now after 15 years of painting, I can say that I have shown my work all over the United States and have had many solo exhibitions.
As a figurative realist, I have found myself alone when it comes to the use of acrylic instead of oil paint, but it works best for me. Now go discover the ways to express your creative side that work for you. You may end up with a brush in your hand and a masterpiece on your canvas.
This is a sketch of a famous eatery: Philippe's - Home of the French Dipped Sandwich
. It was established in Los Angeles, California, in 1908, and hasn't changed one bit over the years. The food is fantastic and the parking is free.
I have sketched and painted this scene many times and in many different ways: pen and ink; watercolor with pencil; pen with watercolor; I have mounted a version to a hard board panel, done it in mixed media and painted it as a demonstration for the workshops I teach. I really enjoy the image because it has a lot of texture, it is gritty and full of stuff, it has good darks and lights and it has a lot of colorful signage.
This version was completed last week and is my new favorite. This is slightly ironic because I had done it as a demo last year for the Learning and Product Expo here in Pasadena and was unable to complete it during the class time, so I filed it away. It was an acceptable painting at the time and had done a good job of illustrating my teaching lesson but finding it again and looking at it with fresh eyes, I found it lacking. I decided to try to fix it. What did I have to lose right?
I had done it as a pen and ink sketch on Arches hot press watercolor paper. I liked the original line work and the initial wash of color was not so strong as to prevent me from adding more, so I tackled it with fresh eyes and renewed enthusiasm. (I find that easier to do with a painting that has seasoned for awhile; I am not so worried that I am going to ruin it so I am very relaxed and feel free to take more chances.)
I started by redrawing it with my Sanford Uniball Micro pen. (Please note that the pen acts very differently drawing over painted areas.) Looking back at my original reference photo I noticed that I had miss drawn the awning, so I just drew it again, correctly this time, ignoring the painted awning underneath. I also drew in a third vehicle and left it unpainted as well, giving the painting a very casual sketchy feeling. I added some narrative copy along the bottom edge and made a few color notes right on the painting.
As the original was lacking in color and contrast, I enhanced the darks, but I did it with color: the shadows are a mixture of blue, red and burnt umber. I exaggerated the color shifts: look at the phone pole - it is dark at the top and very light at the bottom. I also boosted the colors and white paint in the signage. Finally, I painted a stormy sky and put some loose reflections in the foreground to suggest a rainy afternoon.
What started as an average painting is now something I like very much. I encourage you to dig through some of your earlier mediocre pieces and see if you can improve them.
You can see my entire blog at josephstoddard.com
. Learn more about watercolor from Joseph Stoddard in his book, Expressive Color
I remember when I was young I tried to draw a picture of my mom. I remember looking at her and very carefully drawing her head, her hair, her body, and the stool she sat on. To me, at the time, it was a perfect rendition.
My mom still has this drawing. I look at it now and find the crayon drawing laughable because those carefully trained strokes of crayon created another stick figure, complete with several individual hairs depicted by straight lines shooting out of her round stick figure head.
My love of art continued through out high school, where I sat through many drawing and painting lessons in the classroom, receiving art instruction with other beginning artists like myself. We were learning to draw by learning to see and controlling our media.
I would practice my newly learned drawing skills at home in the evenings, carefully replicating colorful album covers from my favorite bands with colored pencils. In college, other artists and I would get together and listen to music while we worked on our drawings and paintings.
Unfortunately, in college I also learned that the only artists who made money were dead ones. After scanning the classified ads, I made the decision to go into commercial art, and quickly adopted digital methods. My love of art did not diminish, but my time creating it did.
The old habit of collecting art materials still remains although I am now grown up and have no free time for drawing and painting. They take up space under the bed and in the garage, but no matter how many times I move, these art materials travel with me. I vow that in my old age, when I am retired and have free time, I will learn how to draw and paint again.